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COA rules on estate representative's banking activity

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has overturned a Lake County judge in an estate case involving a personal representative who conducted banking transactions for an elderly man before his death.

In American Savings, FSB v. Steve H. Tokarski, Successor Personal Rep. of the Estate of John Wroblewski, on Behalf of the Estate, No. 45A04-1105-CC-237, the appellate court reversed and remanded a decision by Lake Superior Judge Gerarld Svetanoff regarding the estate of John Wroblewski that dates back to 2003.

While in his late 80s, Wroblewski named Zorica Milovanovic as his power of attorney and gave her the authority to do tasks such as personal banking transactions. He executed a will naming her the personal representative of his estate, and in June 2003 she used that power of attorney to purchase cashier’s checks which she deposited into a new savings account at American Savings Bank in her name only. After Wroblewski died in 2004, his heirs contested the will and Milovanovic serving as personal representative.

Fifth Third Bank eventually became the successor personal representative, and in 2005 the Lake Superior Court declared Wroblewski’s will invalid because of Milovanovic’s undue influence. Fifth Third requested the savings account records from American Savings Bank, When Steve Tokarski became personal representative in 2007, he filed the lawsuit against American Savings Bank on grounds that the financial institution knew the money was, in fact, for John Wroblewski but allowed Milovanovic to deposit it. That was a breach of contract, the representative claimed.

The trial court found in favor of Tokarski on two counts and for American Savings Bank on a third, relying on a 2010 appellate case known as In re Estate of Rickert to determine American Savings Bank was liable. But the Court of Appeals concluded Rickert is inapplicable to this case because a contract did not arise between American Savings and Wroblewski when Milovanovic opened her savings account. Tokarski provided the trial court with no other basis for a contract between American Savings and Wroblewski and pointed to no designated evidence showing the existence of such a contract, the court found.

As a result, the appellate judges found the trial court erred by granting summary judgment for Tokarski and denying summary judgment for American Savings on the count involving the receipt of cashier’s checks to Milovanovic’s savings account.

The appellate court also found in favor of Tokarski on the issue of the bank’s applying a certificate of deposit to pay off Milovanovic’s mortgage. By deciding the trial court had erred on the first two counts, the appellate judges decided they didn’t need to address the issue of damages and set-off.

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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